Contributed by Hugh Irvine
During the Great Famine of the 1840s two railways were
built from Derry. The Londonderry & Coleraine
Railway was built as far as Coleraine and
it later joined up with the Coleraine to Belfast line.
This became part of the L.M.S. Railway. Its station
was in the Waterside. The Londonderry and Enniskillen
Railway was built to Omagh and then on to
Enniskillen. It later joined up with the lines to Belfast
and Dublin at Portadown. Its station was on the City
side of the River Foyle. This became part of the Great
Northern Railway. Both of these were standard gauge
lines, like those of today.
The next line was also built on the City side, further
down river than the Great Northern one, beside the shipyard
and graving dock (dry dock). It was the standard gauge
Londonderry & Lough Swilly Railway
which ran to Buncrana in Co Donegal. It opened in 1863,
but was later converted to three foot narrow gauge when
a similar line branching off from it was opened from
near Burnfoot to Letterkenny. Much later the lines were
extended from Letterkenny to Burtonport and from Buncrana
The last line to be opened from Derry was also three
foot gauge and ran from the Victoria Road Station
, at the Waterside end of the bridge, to
Strabane . It was worked as if it were part
of the Donegal Railway lines but it belonged to the
L.M.S.. It was opened in 1900.
Although all these lines were run by different companies,
the Londonderry Harbour Commissioners ran lines along
their quays which connected all of them and allowed
them to exchange each other's goods wagons. The Craigavon
Bridge had a second deck under its roadway which allowed
wagons to cross the Foyle to the lines on either side
of the river.
In the years after the end of the Second World War
in 1945 the Derry railways could not compete with the
buses, cars and lorries and were gradually closed down.
Today only the line from the Waterside Station to Belfast
To persuade the public to travel on their trains, the
early Derry railways made a wide variety of offers by
way of excursions to all kinds of attractions. These
would, it was hoped, persuade people to travel by train
who had never done so before. They were especially targeting
the middle classes, for generally only they and the
wealthy could afford train fares.
(Further details to follow soon)
In the early 1950s students from Derry attending university
in Dublin used to take a bus to the Great Northern Railway
Station, at the end of Foyle Street, to travel on the
9 am train for Belfast. They had to be careful to find
a seat on the through coach for Dublin. This was part
of the corridor train for Belfast. It had a restaurant
car and somewhere about Dungannon I sometimes went to
it for a light meal, which had to be finished before
arrival at Portadown.
When the train pulled into Portadown the door to the
next coach was locked and the Dublin through coach was
uncoupled and shunted a hundred yards away from the
train. There it waited for about half an hour until
the Belfast-Dublin train arrived, hauled by one of the
big blue 4-4-0 compound engines, like "Merlin" or "Kestrel".
The Derry coach was added to the rear of it. It was
usually crowded and the restaurant car was full.
It pulled out of Portadown and stopped first at Goraghwood
Station for a Customs examination. The next stop was
Dundalk, where the Southern Customs officials carried
out their examination. If people had largish items of
luggage they might be asked to take them out on to the
platform to have them searched. Once I had my large
grip examined and the officer found books at the bottom
of it. He asked about what I thought of one or two of
them and put an "X" on the grip, to show that it had
been examined. Afterwards, every time that I was on
the train and he was on duty, I had to open the same
old grip and let him see what books I had. We became
On from Dundalk we stopped at Drogheda before pulling
into Amiens Street Station, Dublin at about 2 pm. Then
there was a long haul with a heavy grip up to Nelson's
Pillar for a bus to the "digs".